Every Seashell Has a Story: The Arabian Cowrie

by B. N. Sullivan

Arabian Cowrie (Cypraea arabica), from the Red SeaHere's a special cowrie shell from our collection. The shell pictured at right is an Arabian Cowrie (Cypraea arabica). Jerry found this one in the Red Sea many years ago, and it is the only one we've ever seen, except in pictures.

I had to tell about this one today, since I'm writing this on Easter.  As it happened, we had gone on a dive trip to the Red Sea over the Spring holidays one year, and Jerry found this shell on Easter Sunday. We always joked that the Easter Bunny must have put this egg-shaped cowrie shell there for him to find that morning.

As cowrie shells go, this is a fairly large species.  The Arabian Cowrie shell pictured here is 6.5 cm (about 2.5 in) long.

The first photo shows a dorsal view of the shell.  Below are two more views of the same shell, so you can see its interesting markings.  First is a side view:

Arabian Cowrie (Cypraea arabica)

And here is what the base of the shell looks like:

Arabian Cowrie (Cypraea arabica)

Here is a link to a photo of a live Arabian Cowrie on Wikipedia. You can see the pale colored mantle of the snail that manufactures the shell and lives inside.  There was no snail inside the Arabian Cowrie shell that Jerry found.


  1. Isn't that a beautiful shell?! Better than any Easter egg.

    Can it be that I found one similar to that on the Big Island, maybe not as big?

    Aloha, Pua

  2. Hi Pua - We don't have the Arabian cowries in Hawaii, but there are a few species that have similar markings. Eventually I'll get around to posting some of those.


  3. The markings are most unique, and the inside kind of looks like the edge of a knife. Is that serrated edge there to protect the snail? The shell has such a shiny finish.

  4. Hi Kathy - The edges of the shell apertures of most adult cowries have a row of "teeth" like you see in the photo. Presumably that does discourage predators from trying to get to the snail inside.

    Healthy cowries all have very shiny china-like shell surfaces. Of course that makes them harder to photograph since their shiny surface is quite reflective.


  5. Dear B.N. Sullivan,
    this is a normal SUBADULT specimen of Cypraea (Mauritia) arabica.
    All the Best


We welcome your comments and invite your questions. Dialogue is a good thing!

Bobbie & Jerry